Sea turtle hatchlings were disoriented by artificial light during Pinellas' 2022 nesting season
One hatchling was rescued from a parking lot after crawling across Gulf Boulevard, a major roadway along the barrier islands.
As sea turtle nesting season came to a close last month, it was apparent that the biggest challenge in one part of theTampa Bay region involved the turtles getting disorientated this year.
It's mostly loggerheads nesting in Pinellas County, with the occasional green sea turtle, or a very rare Kemp's ridley sea turtle.
Biologists observed 313 sea turtle nests this past nesting season - that number is up from 281 in 2021, and 222 in 2020.
The season ran from May through October, along 21 miles of beach in Northern and mid-Pinellas.
Each nest, or “clutch,” can contain 80 to 120 eggs, but how many actually hatch depends on the incubation conditions.
If it remains in a moist environment, but not too wet, there can be up to a 96% hatchling success. If severe weather chronically inundates the nest with water, there’s a significant reduction.
“Our sea turtle nests weathered just fine because we didn't have any significant storms, which was not the case last year,” said Lindsey Flynn, sea turtle conservation program manager at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. “We had Elsa come through and damaged quite a few of our nests.”
Land predators, like coyotes and raccoons, can also affect hatch out success.
But as one of Florida's most densely populated counties, human use of artificial light created a constant challenge for the reptiles.